PS5 vs Xbox Series X: which is the best buy this Christmas?

PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X? Our guide to the best new-generation Sony and Microsoft consoles to put under the tree

Xbox Series X vs PS5 - which should I buy?
(Image credit: Future / Microsoft / Sony)

Everyone loves a bit of gaming at Christmas, and now new-gen consoles are a little easier to get hold of, we have to ask the question: should you buy a PlayStation 5 or an Xbox Series X for the holiday season? 

Even if you intend to eventually have both consoles, the investment for Sony and Microsoft’s new-gen boxes is significant enough that you’re going to at least want to buy one at a time. Especially when everything is getting significantly more expensive. 

But which console should be first? Does Xbox Game Pass mean an automatic alliance with Phil Spencer’s crew, or are you on a quest for a deep angry narrative journey that only Kratos can deliver with his axe in God of War Ragnarok? Is cloud gaming important to you? Do you even have room for a PS5 in your TV cabinet?!

This PS5 versus Xbox S X guide will help you answer some of those burning Sony versus Microsoft questions. We’ll break down some pros of each console and in harware and software terms, touch on storage capacity expansion, and suggest some of the best exclusive games to get on day one. 

It's really those games that we ultimately think will be the deciding factor, so read on for our thoughts on whether you should buy the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X this Christmas...

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: price & availability  

The good news is that both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X are in considerably healthier supply than any previous Christmas. Despite both consoles releasing back in winter 2020, there have been supply issues since and this is the first Christmas that you are far more likely to be able to find one without going on some kind of wait list or constantly checking a stock bot on Twitter. Of the two, the PS5 is still the rarer console to find, so if you are having trouble, you can always check our PS5 restock guide to see where to order from.  

Pricing-wise, the Xbox Series X has stayed at the same price since launch. This is £449.99 in the UK, $499.99 in the US, and AUD$749 in Australia. And that’s if you want to pay up front. For the first time, Microsoft has run a monthly subscription program called Xbox All Access (opens in new tab) which means a 24-month contract. For both the console and an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, the Xbox Series X costs £28.99 in the UK, $34.99 a month in the US, and AUD $46 in Australia. At the end of the 24 months, the console is yours to keep and there’s no additional cost for paying in this way. A serious boon when money is tight, especially since this gives you access to hundreds of new and old games on Xbox Game Pass. 

Sadly, a lot like everything else in 2022, the cost of the PlayStation 5 has actually increased since launch in both the UK and Australia. Sony cited the global economic environment and high inflation rates as the reason for the hike. In the US, the RRP of the disc-free console is still $399 and the full-fat version is $499. In the UK, the digital-only console is £389.99 and the PS5 with the disc drive is £479.99. And in Australia, the digital-only box will set you back AUD$649.95, with the disc version at AUD$799.95. The only difference between the two versions here is the disc drive but it’s worth keeping this in mind, especially if you have a stack of PS4 games you still want to play. 

Costs in mind, what about the best games you can play on these consoles? Here are our top picks of the exclusives on each platform:

PlayStation 5

(Image credit: Future)

Best PlayStation 5 Exclusive Games 

God of War Ragnarok
Sony Santa Monica’s latest Norse adventure is another heartfelt thrill ride as Kratos and his son Atreus travel across the realms as Ragnarok looms. Incredible storytelling, eye-melting visuals, and astonishing action await.   (opens in new tab)

God of War Ragnarok
Sony Santa Monica’s latest Norse adventure is another heartfelt thrill ride as Kratos and his son Atreus travel across the realms as Ragnarok looms. Incredible storytelling, eye-melting visuals, and astonishing action await.  

Horizon: Forbidden West
The sequel to one of Sony's biggest successes follows Aloy through various realms, fighting new robotic dinosaurs on land, at sea, and in the air. It's a visual treat and one that can be layered with complexity in terms of difficulty. There's a PS5-only DLC coming in mid 2023 for extra adventures too.  (opens in new tab)

Horizon: Forbidden West
The sequel to one of Sony's biggest successes follows Aloy through various realms, fighting new robotic dinosaurs on land, at sea, and in the air. It's a visual treat and one that can be layered with complexity in terms of difficulty. There's a PS5-only DLC coming in mid 2023 for extra adventures too. 

Demon’s Souls
If you want Christmas to be an endurance test, then you’ll need Hidetaka Miyazaki’s grim masterpiece under the tree. This was a PS5 launch title so testing your skills against the demons of Boletaria should now be a good price. If you can put a price on your sanity that is.  (opens in new tab)

Demon’s Souls
If you want Christmas to be an endurance test, then you’ll need Hidetaka Miyazaki’s grim masterpiece under the tree. This was a PS5 launch title so testing your skills against the demons of Boletaria should now be a good price. If you can put a price on your sanity that is. 

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
And if you want a game for the whole family to enjoy, Insomnia’s latest Ratchet & Clank adventure is like an interactive Pixar movie. The iconic pair make great cartoon company and the addition of Rivet as a key cast member adds real heart. Oh, and the guns are ludicrous and brilliant.   (opens in new tab)

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart
And if you want a game for the whole family to enjoy, Insomnia’s latest Ratchet & Clank adventure is like an interactive Pixar movie. The iconic pair make great cartoon company and the addition of Rivet as a key cast member adds real heart. Oh, and the guns are ludicrous and brilliant.  

Xbox

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Best Xbox Series X Exclusive Games 

Forza Horizon 5
Just when you didn’t think Playground Games could get better than the UK-based Forza Horizon 4, the team lets us hurtle through tropical storms and across volcanoes in Mexico. How could rainy Blighty compete? This is an open world racing paradise on Xbox Game Pass.   (opens in new tab)

Forza Horizon 5
Just when you didn’t think Playground Games could get better than the UK-based Forza Horizon 4, the team lets us hurtle through tropical storms and across volcanoes in Mexico. How could rainy Blighty compete? This is an open world racing paradise on Xbox Game Pass.  

Halo Infinite 
Described by TechRadar Gaming as "a triumph", developer 343 Industries has a special title on its hands here. There's a campaign that old skool Halo fans will love, but there's a progressing multiplayer side to the game that will keep many coming back for time to come... (opens in new tab)

Halo Infinite
Described by TechRadar Gaming as "a triumph", developer 343 Industries has a special title on its hands here. There's a campaign that old skool Halo fans will love, but there's a progressing multiplayer side to the game that will keep many coming back for time to come...

Sea of Thieves
There’s something very special about the shared piracy of Sea of Thieves. Yes, you can go it alone but getting a crew together and working together to pillage and loot across this shared beautiful world is pure watery wish fulfilment. Just try not to get too furious when other players act like the pirates they arrrr.  (opens in new tab)

Sea of Thieves
There’s something very special about the shared piracy of Sea of Thieves. Yes, you can go it alone but getting a crew together and working together to pillage and loot across this shared beautiful world is pure watery wish fulfilment. Just try not to get too furious when other players act like the pirates they arrrr. 

Psychonauts 2
Another exclusive Game Pass addition, Psychonauts 2 is a perfect combination of hilarious storytelling and brilliant 3D platforming. It’s all very Doublefine as we join Raz for a mind bending journey through the human brain.   (opens in new tab)

Psychonauts 2
Another exclusive Game Pass addition, Psychonauts 2 is a perfect combination of hilarious storytelling and brilliant 3D platforming. It’s all very Doublefine as we join Raz for a mind bending journey through the human brain.  

PS5 vs Xbox Series X: Hardware differences? 

We’re not going to go too far into the teraflops on offer, but it’s worth noting that both the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X do have some unique tech elements worth diving into. Both consoles have a similar style of processor and, importantly, a solid state drive (or SSD) which, rather than whirr away with moving parts, uses a speedier storage solution to allow far faster loading. This means less time watching endless bars fill and bigger and richer game worlds as devs have better tech to work with. But let’s take a look at some key differences and benefits for each console.  

First off, the PlayStation 5’s DualSense Wireless Controller is a big upgrade for the new generation. Unlike Xbox, which has very much stuck to its previous reliable form factor and feature set, the DualSense is packed with haptic motors and has resistant triggers. You’ll find the best results come from Sony’s first-party games like Astro’s Playroom, but feeling explosions or even terrain underfoot, and the difference between weapons when you squeeze the triggers, feels like a real treat. It does mean the rechargeable battery takes a hit though. 

It’s also worth noting that neither console has access to a full 1-Terabyte (1TB) of their drives. A chunk of space is taken up with the operating system, so on the PS5 you’ll get 825GB worth of storage and on the Xbox Series X you’ll have 802GB for games. In terms of additional storage, Microsoft’s solution is currently the easiest upgrade and means you don’t need to go anywhere near a screwdriver. There’s a slot on the rear of the console for an Official Seagate Storage Expansion Card. If you want to upgrade the storage on the PS5 – here's our PS5 SSD step-by-step guide in pictures – you’ll need to feel a little braver to install an M.2 SSD directly into the console itself. Just like the Xbox options though, these are a significant investment: we've listed our favourite 1TB Xbox X and PS5 compatible cards below...

And while we’re talking a lot about the boxes, both consoles have options for when you’re away from home but have access to the internet. Microsoft and Sony have very different approaches to cloud gaming, but Microsoft is definitely the stronger contender with its service that’s included with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Using Xbox Cloud Gaming you can play Game Pass games on your phone, tablet, or PC and just pick up where you left off on your console. There’s nothing quite like taking your iPad and controller to bed and just zooming around in Forza lag-free before you go to sleep. 

Sony’s offering is a little different. As part of its PlayStation Plus Premium Service, you can now stream games to your PC but only specific titles and these don’t include PS5 games. You can also stream titles direct to your PS5 without downloading them but only PS1, PS2, PS3, PSP and PS4 games. You might not look at this functionality at all but there at least is an option, if you don’t fancy filling your hard drive. You will definitely want to make sure you have a fast enough internet connection though.   

So which should you buy? Xbox Series X or PS5?

So which should you buy: a PS5 or an Xbox Series X? Well, there’s no easy answer and that’s kind of half the fun. 

We’ve mentioned it a few times and Xbox Game Pass is a very easy selling point for the Series X. Spending a monthly fee for a library with hundreds of games and exclusivity from studios like Bethesda is exceptionally attractive. Especially with games like Starfield and Redfall due in 2023. 

But PlayStation’s recent PS Plus upgrade has really levelled the playing field, especially if you’re a fan of Sony’s first-party studios and have grown up on a rich diet of PS1 and PS2 titles. There are now hundreds of classic PlayStation games as part of the PS Plus subscription, as well as big games from studios like Ubisoft. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla anyone? 

Plus, if you’ve got an eye on virtual reality, the new PSVR 2 is on the way in February next year exclusively for PS5 with haptic feedback, 4K visuals, and an impressive launch lineup that includes a new game in the Horizon universe.

Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are terrific new-generation consoles, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Both have incredible selections of games, 4K Blu-ray players (so long as you don't buy digital-only), and are happily trying to outdo each other at all times. This means a very healthy new generation console era and whichever you decide, there’ll be no shortage of brilliant experiences to play. As we said earlier, it might just be a case of which console goes under the tree first.  

Louise Blain

Louise Blain is a journalist and broadcaster specialising in technology, gaming, and entertainment.  She has a weekly consumer tech slot on BBC Radio Scotland and is the presenter of BBC Radio 3's monthly Sound of Gaming show. She can also regularly be found on BBC Radio 4, BBC Five Live, and The Evolution of Horror podcast as well as writing for GamesRadar and NME. Louise loves finding ways that tech can make our lives better every day and no, she doesn't have enough smart lighting yet.